How Jeff Janis Impacted the Packers-Cardinals Game
The underdog story is as American as apple pie. It is instilled in us from day one because we were the underdogs when we got our freedom.
In addition to defeating the British in the Revolutionary War, we defeated the Soviets in arguably the biggest sports upset ever at the 1980 Winter Olympics.
At our core, we are underdogs, and it is normal for us to pull for the underdog. While the Green Bay Packers are a good team (and rarely the underdog), they were the underdog against the Arizona Cardinals on Saturday.
Entering the game, the Cardinals were about a two-to-one favorite to win the game based on the odds from numberFire Live. Although this is not the biggest margin between two teams, it still shows that the Cardinals were a heavy favorite.
If you know a bit about the Packers roster, then you know they also have a player on the team who has his own underdog story: Jeff Janis. Janis is an athletic freak out of Saginaw Valley State University who many people in the football community have wanted to see play because of his promising athletic profile.
So how did the even bigger underdog story, Janis, help the underdog Packers on Saturday?
An easy answer to why Janis could have improved the Packers chances for overcoming the odds is looking at the offensive leaders from this past weekend's games on numberFire Live. This list is filled with stars like Carson Palmer, Rob Gronkowski, and Tom Brady in the top-10, but above all sits Janis on his throne as the top offensive player this past week.
While it would be easy to end the argument here and rest on Janis' laurels as the best offensive player of the week, there is more to the story than just that. Previously, I looked at the impact Jordy Nelson's injury is having on the Green Bay offense, and this game showed the dichotomy between the offense having and not having a field-stretcher playing offense.
Janis logged no offensive snaps until Randall Cobb got injured on the final play of the first quarter. Through one quarter, the Packers barely moved the ball and failed to score a point. When looking at the win graph on numberFire Live, the Cardinals had a 77.01% chance of winning when Cobb got hurt. This means the likelihood that they would win improved by 10 percentage points from the start of the game to the time that Janis took his first snap.
In the second quarter, Janis played 25 out of the 27 offensive snaps that occurred after the Cobb injury. In this time, Green Bay scored six points and improved their win likelihood to 37.10%, an improvement of 14.09 percentage points in one quarter. This also gave them odds that were barely better than their pregame odds.
Oddly, Mike McCarthy had the Packers adjust from their three wide receiver set after halftime. While they ran that on 40 of their 42 first half snaps, they only ran it once on their first nine offensive snaps for the second half. That one snap they ran it on happened to be a touchdown -- to none other than Janis.
None of this is to say that Janis is the cause for their success, and that having him on the bench is the cause for their eventual failure; however, the correlation is strong between Janis being on the field and good things happening for the Packers offense -- at least based on this do-or-die contest.
Fast forward to the Packers being desperate down seven with under two minutes remaining in the game, and they again call on Janis. On the final drive of regulation, Janis caught 2 passes for 101 yards (no that is not a typo) and a touchdown.
Even with the extra point to tie the game, the Packers still only had a 43.89% chance of winning. Going for two is another way the Packers could have changed destiny.
By no means is Janis playing causation for the Packers offense playing well. However, the correlation of Janis playing and the Green Bay offense playing closer to the form we know with Nelson active is something that should have been explored long before the most desperate of times.
If Janis had more play time just in this game alone, we can only wonder just how much different the game might have gone.